GPS for special needs peeps

Hi. I’m a mum to a special needs, verbally challenged 10 year old that loves to wander. Especially when the weather gets nice. I imagine I’ve lost a few years off my lifespan each time he runs while I’m making a mad dash up and down the streets, trails and beaches where we live…
I know the topic is hot, but is there anything being developed I can track him with? He has tactile aversions and won’t wear a tag. (on clothes, necklaces, watches, phones, shoes, etc.). He often leaves barefoot, (or lighter).
As he gets older, and faster, his distance is growing - the boy can run. I would love to Jason Bourne this kid asap. Any insights or places I can turn?

I can see why you ended up here, unfortunately, What you need is something that it sounds like he doesn’t like

These solutions are active tracking mechanisms, Meaning they are battery powered and reach out or can be contacted, via an infrastructure of some sort (normally cellular, but not always)

Our implants are inert/passive, basically like a pet chip implant, Hence the confusion; people refer to them as tracking chips, but the tracking is not tracking in the traditional sense. A lost pet is found, chip scanned, the information on the chip is looked up, and the pet owner is contacted.
The scanning of which is done with normally a portable handheld reader and the range of which is limited to only a few mm.

As you can see this solution probably wont suit your particular situation.

Ideally, you need some more active/ Battery powered solutions.
My first thoughts would be:
Hiding an apple airtag or similar into something he always takes with him, favourite toy, jacket, backpack (A pity he doesnt always wear shoes, that would be easy)

I imagine a smart watch would not fly with his aversion.
Would he carry a cellphone if it was made fun? easy to track most smart phones.
Also an alarm on the door or gate that he uses.

I’m not sure if they are still available, but there used to be a cute kid friendly cellphone tracker called “firefly” that are much smaller than a smart phone, so could be carried or hidden (maybe) ALTHOUGH I think they just restrict phone calls rather than tracking :man_shrugging:

The other path you could go down is look at options for altzheimer patients, some of which are RF trackers, like are used on wildlife, They take a little skill to use, but the tracking devices can be very small

You sound like a great mum, and I wish you luck finding a solution, hopefully somebody else will be along with some better solutions for you


During your search, you may find somethings like this

This does not do what it says it does.

Please feel free to ask more questions here, share links etc. on things you may want advice/opinions on


To give you an idea of the size, and a build your own option (depending on skill level)
This should have at least a few hundred meter range (or few hundred yards if you are weird) , range will depending on the environment

There’s a video at the bottom for a better example

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Agree with everything @Pilgrimsmaster said

I would look into possibly sewing in pockets for an AirTag into pants, possibly at the bottom of hems or what not

Not someone who does much sewing, but should only need to be a 1 - 1.5 “ solid patch and then a slit down the middle of it, like the old squeeze style coin pouches…

Then just move the AirTags from clothing article to clothing article as the days change

Bonus it would function as a basic geotag, you’d get an alert when they left Bluetooth range, and supposedly new IOS lets you share access to air tags now


I should say, incase you are not in the Apple ecosystem, or want an alternative, Samsung Smart Tags are very similar, and Tile have a few differnet form factors

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As others have said, microchipping isn’t really viable for that, other than… worst case scenario type stuff that you never want.

However, there are miniature GPS tracking devices on the market, and they’re often between 50 to 100 dollars, so it’s affordable. The downside to these miniature ones is that they don’t have a long battery life, so they do need to be charged every couple of days, which means either having 2 of them so you can use one when the other is low on battery, then charging that one just before the other’s battery runs out, and using them that way.

The main problem with this is that unless your child has an item that they always keep with them, or clothing item they always wear, you’ll have a difficult time keeping it on them at all times. Without that, you’ll unfortunately be relegated to helicopter parenting, and sewing tiny pockets into the lad’s clothing for airtags / tiles / other similar products.

Hopefully he’ll take a liking to having a cellphone when the time comes, because that will make things much easier for you, since you can always setup and access the “where’s my device” from your phone, or computer, and find out where his phone is at all times, and thus him as long as he’s always got it on him.

If he likes backpacks, that’ll be fantastic for you because you can sew in a pocket for one of those miniature GPS devices in there, and ensure it’s always with him, but that’s a big if with the sensory issues. A stim toy / item / clothing will probably be the easiest though. Anyway, it’s late and I feel as though I’m maybe rambling, so best of luck to you.

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Related to Pilgrimsmaster’s post about the various types of tags, the ones that will be most useful to you will of course depend on which platform is most popular in your neighbourhood, and the surrounding neighbourhoods, and whichever ones you frequently visit. So it can be beneficial to have more than one type.

Also, I just remembered that the apple ones now beep, and probably the other ones too because criminals have been using them to track things they want to steal, or to stalk people. This is important because if your child is anything like I am, any sudden, unexpected noise, especially one with an unknown source that can’t be escaped, may cause panic, and upset. So if the noise is a problem, there are ways to remove/disable the sound making part of them, so that you have a functional tag without the sound.


Pilgrimsmaster’s first reply is spot on and the Apple Airtag is the best way to go if you can’t go full on GPS (like a pet tracker). However, when the AirTag leaves your home environment it will only be able to display its position in real time if it is near other people’s apple devices (they passively pass on the position of tags to the cloud and your devices can then see them with apple’s “FindMy” app).
There is another tagging system that apple have permitted to use the AirTag network called Seinxon I bought some from the Kickstarter campaign and so far have been impressed by the results.Their “Mini” tag is also quite small, light and waterproof and could be placed into little pockets sewn into clothes.
That said, if Samsung’s tags work on the same passive relay system with all Android phones (ie not just Samsung ones) that would probably be a better bet, given that Android has a much bigger share of the market.
I have also tested Tile tags but their market is so much smaller so they are only really useful for things that stay put (ie keys, wallets, parked cars)


Hi @tvt , I’m not sure if you are still monitoring this account, I was just wondering how you are going with your project?
Have you found any solutions yet?

I was wondering the same thing. I just reread my post and realised that if you are not tech savvy it may have provided too much information and been confusing. If you want a stripped down answer that doesn’t go into unnecessary detail I would be happy to provide it.

I agree on what was said. The tags especially the apple ones are pretty good.